The Master’s words should stay uppermost in your mind all the time:
I am nothing, I am nothing, I am nothing.1
This excerpt from one of Baba Jaimal Singh Maharaj’s letters to Maharaj Sawan Singh, or Great Master, a future master in the making, contains the refrain “I am nothing,” – also found in various forms in other letters throughout the collection. His message is clear: humility is an important quality to cultivate on the spiritual path.
But how do we do that? It seems to automatically happen when we are confronted with someone or something greater than ourself. In an interview on a radio talk show, Adam Frank, an American astrophysicist, asks:
Does the size of space – those zillions of stars and zillions of miles of nothing in between them – freak you out? Well, if it does, guess what? You’re not alone. ...
Just to be clear, space is pretty big. It took 10 years for the New Horizon probe [in the summer of 2015] to cross the solar system and reach Pluto, even though it was speeding along at 36,000 miles per hour. ... The Milky Way galaxy, which is kind of like our local city in space, has 400 billion stars – and they are so far apart from each other that even if you traveled as fast as New Horizon it would take 100 centuries to get from one star to the other. ...
But ... that is no reason to get all freaked out. Instead ... it’s reason to celebrate. ... Sure, space is unimaginably vast and you are just a tiny speck ... in the vast wheeling cosmos. But does that mean you’re insignificant and unimportant? Yes, it does – and that is awesome! Because that means you’re off the hook.2
We would agree that our inconsequentiality, compared to the immensity of the cosmos, humbles us, but we would also acknowledge that even the cosmos is not as immense as the Shabd and our Shabd masters.
Next, we hear the astrophysicist explain why our smallness and insignificance frees us from societal and self-imposed shackles:
Space is so crazy big that most of the day-to-day stuff that we sweat just doesn’t matter and that’s a very good thing.
Did your car get a flat on the way to work? Doesn’t matter.
Did you spill coffee on that new white dress shirt just before a meeting? Doesn’t matter. ...
It doesn’t matter because the immense vastness of the universe can be a kind of gift reminding us all to chill out. ... The whole stage of our lives, with all its immense joy and sorrow, is really part of a much larger and much grander play. Knowing the true scale of the universe doesn’t have to freak us out. Instead it can remind us to do the best we can, to be careful, compassionate, give it all our effort and then step back.3
This sounds just like what our masters have been telling us: to be good human beings, to analyze and worry less, and to try our very best at whatever we do, and then let go of the results.
There is a beautiful line of a shabd sung at Dera that touches on this: “I will sit back and enjoy the play, by my Beloved’s side.”4
How can we not enjoy everything when we feel the presence of our Beloved? At the same time, we are like the child enjoying the fair, in that often-told story; but once she lets go of her Father’s hand, the clown with the big red smile and the merry-go-round with flashing lights and loud music suddenly seem menacing.
The astrophysicist ends his talk by highlighting a worthy reminder: “The universe is a big place and there is a lot going on. That means, by one scale at least, our problems just aren’t that important. So, stop worrying so much and remember ... : It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.”
How true. But this raises the question: what does matter? What matters is deepening our relationship with our Master and deepening our spiritual practice. Soami Ji gives us a hint about how to do that:
Serve the Master, please him with your service;
come on, my friend, adopt this way of life.4
The present Master simplifies and clarifies this further by distilling it down to doing just one thing – meditation on Nam, the paramount seva, the utmost way we can serve our beloved Master, lighten his tremendous load and please him.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us more about how best to adopt this service as a way of life – by becoming what he describes as a good satsangi:
Who is a good initiate or satsangi? The answer is very simple: He who keeps all his love and attention in the Divine Sound, and performs his worldly duties as a matter of routine. He is not affected by anything that comes in his life – good or bad – because he has perfectly submitted to the Master.5
This definition of a good satsangi emphasizes two attributes that are essential to deepening our practice and our relationship with the Beloved: (1) keeping our attention on the Master and Nam; and (2) living in his divine will.
Regarding the first attribute, reflect on Great Master’s beautiful explanation:
Just as a stream loses its identity when it is poured into the Ganges; just as the iron blade of a butcher becomes gold when touched with a philosopher’s stone; just as a neem tree acquires perfume when grown near a sandalwood tree; just as a piece of stone turns into salt when it stays in a salt mine; so also one becomes a saint if one remains in the company of saints.6
What a poetic reminder that what we dwell upon and whoever’s company we keep will greatly affect who we are and who we will become. And what a powerful reminder to sharpen our simran, especially to Sardar Bhahadur Maharaj’s high standard, that our simran be “incessant, unceasing, continuous, and constant.”7
As the masters have stated, simran is the only thing we can do to quiet the scampering mind and reach the eye centre, where, by the way, the lasting fun begins!
About the second attribute of a being a good satsangi – living in the Lord’s will – here’s a wonderful Sufi story about Nasruddin the Hodja, who is alleged to have been a real person, born in 1208 in what is now Turkey.
One day, when Nasruddin was working in his garden, he become very warm and sat down in the shade of a walnut tree, slipping off his turban to cool his bald head. Relaxing, he observed a fine pumpkin in the garden. Smiling, he mused out loud, “Allah, your ways are great indeed, but there are a few things that I would have done differently were I in charge. See the proud pumpkin growing on a spindly little vine, and then consider the walnut, a tiny inconsequential nut upon a great and lordly tree.
“Well,” he continued musing, “if I had been planning things, I would have reversed it. I’d have hung those pumpkins in all of their glory from this magnificent tree and let the teeny walnuts cling to the spindly pumpkin vine on the ground.”
As he was day dreaming of the other things he might do differently, a gentle breeze stirred the branches above him.
Suddenly, a walnut fell from the tree and landed with a thud on the top of Nasrudin’s bald head. As the lump began to swell and the pain increased, an understanding smile spread over his face.
Bowing down he murmured, “O Allah, forgive me. Thy wisdom is great indeed. Suppose I had been arranging matters? I should just now have been hit upon the head by a pumpkin.”8
Isn’t this one of our chief struggles? We pit our will against the Master’s will. Perhaps the struggle to let go of our will would not be so difficult if all that was required was a walnut dropping on our heads! Or perhaps the struggle would not be such a challenge if we regarded our Master’s will as Great Master did his Master’s will, as we hear in the following line: “A satsangi performs actions without desiring their fruits and leaves the results to the sweet will of the Master.”9
The sweet will of the Master is easy to see. Surely it is sweet that our Master is always looking out for us spiritually. And that Baba Ji is continually thinking up new ways to motivate and inspire us, such as with new books and the greatly enhanced RSSB website. He wants us to tune out the world and tune in to the music of the spheres. Really, how could his will be anything but sweet since he wants only to free us from the shackles of our body and mind so that we can attain oneness.
However, to arrive at this lofty state of awareness and surrender, we have some work to do.
In a TED talk about grit, the speaker, Angela Lee Duckworth, describes how schoolchildren are more likely to succeed in life if they have grit, which she defines as a combination of patience and perseverance.10 One can easily see how these qualities would be extremely helpful in deepening our meditation practice and our relationship with the Beloved. Grit is stamina.
We know that longing, which is a form of passion, is essential if we are to persist on our path. We need longing to feel the Master’s presence and to become who the Master wants us to be. Longing for his darshan inside is what propels us inward and upward. As Kabir has written, it is longing that does all the work.
Regarding perseverance and stamina, we know these qualities are necessary for success in worldly endeavors, so it makes sense they would be essential for the much more demanding spiritual goals.
In her talk, Duckworth tells us that grit is sticking with our goals day in and day out, not just for a week or a month but for many years. For those of us who have been on the path for a while, we know what it takes to get up every morning to meditate for years, even decades. It is no wonder Hazur calls this daily act of devotion the most courageous thing we can do. Last, Duckworth says, to live a life of grit one must live as if it is a marathon, not a sprint.
About this, Ken Foreman, a pastor, writes in his book Imagine Living Your Dream:
If you take on the mindset of a sprinter you will expect to reach the finish line quickly and if you don’t, you will run out of breath and possibly give up the race.
Take on the mindset of a marathon runner:
On the way to your [goal], there are twists and turns ... hills and valleys.
On the way to your [goal], there is a lot of territory to cover.
You know the finish line is out there. You know it will take some time to get there,
[so]... just keep putting one foot in front of the other. ...
Who knows, it could be around the next turn.
There may be one lap to go.
If you are patient, persistent and persevere, you will cross the finish line.11
In our Radha Soami books, the Masters urge us to be patient, imploring us to persist and persevere. They understood, long before recent studies revealed, that the single most important factor for success is the degree to which one has grit.
We need only to look to our Masters as examples. Reflect on the patience, persistence, perseverance, passion and stamina that Baba Ji has displayed these last 29 years trying to persuade us to make meditation our Number One priority – trying to get us to trade in our troublesome, worthless crow of an ego for the release of our pure swan-soul so that we can ascend the inner skies back home. Baba Ji is our supreme example of grit.
Interestingly, although the TED speaker focused on the need for children to have more grit, she ended her talk with the confession that educators do not know how best to help children develop grit. Fortunately for us, we do: bhajan and simran.
Hazur, in Quest for Light, writes that “bhajan and simran are the only ways to improve ourselves and achieve our goal.” 12 That is why the Masters tell us not to analyze, just to meditate. As Hazur so lyrically explained: cream always rises to the top.
This is the grit part, our part to play – churning the milk into cream. And the grace part? The Beloved’s part to play? Hazur finishes the paragraph with this astonishing guarantee: “With the Lord on our side, nothing can keep us away from our eternal home, which we will certainly attain one day.”
The Masters just ask us to make it to the eye centre (with their constant support), and then they promise that they will take care of the rest of our journey home. So basically, we just have to sit, repeat the names and let go – a small show of gratitude for all they do for us.
There is a vivid story whose meaning can encourage us to strive to be gritty lovers, who will not rest until we behold our Beloved’s face within.
During the filming of the epic movie Ben Hur, it is said that the lead actor had trouble learning to drive a chariot. With a lot of practice he was finally able to control the chariot but he still had some doubts. He reportedly explained his concerns to the director saying, “I think I can drive the chariot, but I am not sure I will win the race.” The director replied: “You just stay in the race, and I will make sure you win.”
This is just what the director of our lives, the Master, ask of us: just to stay in the race, meditate on Nam every day with love and devotion and without expectations. Just let go of our will and accept his will, just keep our attention on the Master and the Lord 24/7. These are the only things that go with us beyond death. If we do this, he will make sure that we cross the finish line – meet him inside and return to him, in this very lifetime.
- Baba Jaimal Singh Ji, Spiritual Letters, #68
- Adam Frank, “Does the Size of the Universe Freak You Out?,” All Things Considered (National Public Radio), June 1, 2016
- Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry, p. 134
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat, 7th ed., 1985, ltr 93
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, 7th ed., 2002, p. xliii
- Maharaj Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh, Science of the Soul, 11th ed., 2002, 2014; p. 184
- Retelling of traditional story
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, ltr 124
- Angela Lee Duckworth, “Grit: The Power of Patience and Perseverance,” TED talk, May 9, 2013
- Ken Foreman, Imagine Living Your Dream, Cathedral of Faith, 2nd ed., 2013, p. 156
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light, ltr 280